Computers— these are must-have equipment in a modern office environment. It allows us to work faster and way efficiently with only a minimal movement range. However, the human body is not specifically designed to sit idly for hours in front of a computer station. This means merely that psychosocial and physical injuries might likely occur. And the most frequent injuries that occur in a modern office environment happen slowly and not suddenly.
Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSD is a collective term for a range of common physical injuries like RSI or Repetitive Strain Injuries that is characterized by pain or discomforts in tendons, muscles and other soft tissues with or without noticeable symptoms.
Taking a closer look at RSI
RSI or Repetitive strain injury, in simple medical terms, is a type of CTD or Cumulative Trauma Disorder stemming from prolonged awkward forceful and repetitive hand movements. This can lead to damages to nerves, tendons, and muscles of the hand, forearm, shoulder, and neck that cause numbness, weakness, pain and even the impairment of motor control.
What are the causes of RSI
There are various reasons as to why RSI shows itself mentally and physically.
RSI General Causes:
- Carrying heavy loads on a repetitive basis
- A blow or direct pressure to the body
- Prolonged work periods without breaks
- Poorly organized work area which is not ergonomically sound
- Poor posture
- Forceful activities
- Vibrating equipment
- Cold Temperatures
- Overuse of muscles on a repetitive basis
How RSI affects your working productivity
Because RSI causes suffering pain and discomfort, workplace strains and pains is a serious matter and can disable workers and affect every single aspect of a worker’s life. It limits your daily functionality which in turn will reduce your independence and can lead to emotional burden. Not only that, RSI limits your capability to perform your work, a minus point from your employer or worse he or she might fire you.
10 Office Ergonomic Tips To Reduce RSI
Tip #1: Neutral Wrist Position when Typing
Typing in a Neutral Wrist Position means you should not type with your wrist bent upwards you which is called Dorsiflexion. Also, you should not bend your wrist towards your thumb or your little finger. This is because typing with your wrist not in the neutral position can give additional strains on sheaths and tendons and increase your RSI risk.
Tip #2: Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks is frequent advice for any employee in a modern work environment however it is also the hardest advice to follow. To reduce your risk of RSI, you need to take at least five minutes of break for every 10 to 30 minutes of work activity. While taking a break, do not just look away from the computer, stand up, leave your seat and walk around, or better yet get yourself a cup of water.
Tip #3: Sit Properly
Your mother might already tell you this, but I will repeat it, do not slouch and sit properly. The major cause of RSI is bad posture. So you might want to sit up straight or adjust the seat so that you are not leaning towards the keyboard. You can also adjust the monitor so that it is not in front of you and you are at eye level with the top screen.
Tip #4: Replace or Adjust your Keyboard
While most people think it is right to choose a keyboard with rear height adjustment so they can have the keyboard’s back elevated while they are typing, it is wrong. The proper and correct alignment of the keyboard is when it is flat and is below or at elbow level. This keyboard position is the most comfortable position to type with your wrists is in a place that is neutral.
Tip #5: Proper using of Mouse
Most people tend to develop RSI in the hand that uses the mouse and can cause dorsiflexion. To keep your wrist in a most comfortable position while using the mouse a gel wrist pad can be helpful. Also, there are modern “ergonomic” mouse available today that limits your hand movements going left and right to reach the mouse and significantly reduce shoulder pain.
Tip #6: Do Eye Palming
This is a technique used to relax your eyes. You can achieve this by placing your fingers crossed over your forehead and with your palms cover your eyes. Do not put pressure to your eyeballs and just concentrate at the blackness for a few minutes. This can help relax your eyes from all the strain of looking at a computer screen.
Tip #7: Practice Breathing
When you are stressed or working on your computer, you simply do not notice it, but it corrupts your natural breathing. Take a few minutes break, get out of your seat and try to inhale and exhale for air to properly enter your body.
Tip #8: Back Arching and Stretching
Your back is the primary spot that can get affected when you have bad posture. You need to stretch it for a while at least to keep your muscles working. Stand with your hands supporting your lower back and slowly arch your back and hold for a few seconds. Or you can stretch your back and arms by interlacing your fingers with your palms facing upward, extend your arms upward and slowly lean from side to side. You can repeat these stretching movements as many times as needed.
Tip #9: Neck Stretching
Your neck suffers when your screen is not correctly aligned to eye level, or you type facing forward the keyboard. A proper neck stretching can relax your muscle from all the strains. For neck stretching you can tuck in your chin and slowly lower your right ear to your right shoulder and hold it for a few seconds then repeat it on the other side. You can do this practice as many times as needed or until you feel relief in your neck area.
Tip #10: Shoulder Rolls
As you type on your keyboard and going left and right to click the mouse, your shoulder begs for relief. You can do shoulder roll and make a forward circular motion of your shoulder for few times and then backward to help reduce shoulder strains. Do the same process on each side and repeat the exercise as needed.
Repetitive strain injury affects many employees in a modern working environment. Most because they are lacking discipline and is need of more awareness and proper training. However, understanding RSI, knowing how it can be prevented and practicing proper etiquette when in front of the computer is the surest way to not fall victim to it.